Art by Jarek Puczel
“Real intimacy is a sacred experience. It never exposes its secret trust and belonging to the voyeuristic eye of a neon culture. Real intimacy is of the soul, and the soul is reserved.”
I'm not usually one to set New Year's resolutions. But I am a little superstitious. I often feel that the way we spend our New Year's eve sets the tone for the year ahead. This year was the first time that I felt a pull to spend the night in. Instead of going to my usual festivals, I celebrated the occasion by sharing a traditional Ghanaian dish and conversation with my lover. We reflected on our highlights and lowlights from the last 9 years (2016 was said to be the end of a 9-year-cycle), and at midnight we looked to the silence of the stars while holding hands and welcoming in a new chapter.
And that was it.
Just simple pleasures and ritual, an open sky, and love.
Some people prefer to create "guiding words" for the year, which is a beautiful practice. I'm all for working towards goals, but something about having words to live by feels more sustainable. Let's be real, we don't always meet our New Year's resolutions, (and then we give ourselves a hard time about it), so creating over-arching themes is more conducive to following a trajectory while allowing some grace for life's path to twist and bend.
My guiding feeling landed the next day when I was reading from a deeply enchanting book called Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human meet by Matthew Fox. In the first few pages he says, "The great thirteenth-century mystic Meister Eckhart asks: "What is it that remains?" And his answer is: "That which is inborn in me remains." That which we give birth to from our depths is that which lives on after us. That which is inborn in us constitutes our most intimate moments- intimate with self, intimate with God the Creative Spirit, and intimate with others."
Still from Danse Serpentine, Loie Fuller, 1899 by Lumiere Brothers.
“Mystical experiences do not necessarily supply new ideas to the mind, rather, they transform what one believes into what one knows, converting abstract concepts, such as divine love, into vivid, personal, realities.”
There it was. Intimacy. A triangle of intimacy (guiding shapes, anyone?) This would be north on my compass for the year. In a way it's nothing new. Developing a sense of connectedness with self, the divine, and others (including the more-than-human world) has been a driving purpose of mine for many years. In fact, I would argue they form some of the larger goals of humanity as a whole. But how does that intimacy work on a daily basis? How can we lean closer towards it with commitment and courage?
The thing about intimacy is that it doesn't have to be complicated. By nature, it's probably only really intimate when it isn't complicated. Intimacy is found in the small moments of closeness. It's in the gaps of silence during conversations. It's in the sand between your toes and the heat between the skin of two bodies. Intimacy is in solitude with a cup of tea when the kids have gone to bed, and in the goodnight hug before they get there. It's also in every prayer, ritual and exhibition of creative self-expression.
Though just because intimacy is simple doesn't mean it's easy. We put up walls around our hearts to avoid attachment so we won't get hurt again. Or we don't give ourselves a quiet moment or a discussion with the gods because we know the answers we receive might be at odds with our actions. But the consequences of not letting love in or ignoring our wise self are far more grave than making a few bold leaps without our safety nets.
Hand-coloured photograph by Shae DeTar.
“...there's nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.”
So the question now is how do we integrate this triangle of intimacy into everyday life? What does intimacy look like for you, personally? What can you do each day to:
+ bring you home to yourself?
+ find the sacred in the ordinary?
+ step closer towards your loved ones?
+ connect with the more-than-human world (i.e. plants/animals/other animate beings)?
I found a great tool recently that allows you to write an email to yourself in the future, and I think it would be perfect for this exercise. Answer the questions above, and then write them into an email that is dated at some point in 2017. I'm going to set mine up to send monthly as a reminder when the inevitable life happens and I lose track of which constellation I'm navigating towards.
That's the true beauty of intimacy. It guides you home.
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